As part of the Power of Trees program, Lincoln natural gas service provider Black Hills Energy is donating eight trees – three Red Sunset Maples, two Snowdrift Crabapple, one Aristocrat Pear and two Pacific Sunset Maples – to Ruth Hill Elementary School, 5230 Tipperary Trail, Lincoln, for a Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom planned for the school.
Black Hills Energy and Eagle Nursery employees planted the trees Friday at the future site of the outdoor classroom on the northeast side of the school’s playground. Four classes of Hill School first graders – 87 students total – will also help with the final steps of the plantings and Black Hills will stress to them the importance of trees.
“Trees help conserve energy, sustain the environment and improve the landscape,” said Greg Shinaut, Black Hills Energy community relations manager for Nebraska. “With this program, we work to improve the environment and help beautify communities we serve while spreading the message that everyone can plant trees. We hope this planting will be a catalyst for additional tree-planting efforts.”
The Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom is a Hill School PTA project and is expected to be completed when its fundraising goal is reached. Nature Explore, a collaborative program of the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation, provided on-site design consultation services with a specially trained landscape architect-educator team for Hill School’s outdoor classroom.
Lindsay Salem, Hill School Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom Committee chair, said, “In our summer meetings with the Nature Explore team, we recognized the need for some shade in our proposed outdoor classroom. We loved the idea of planting trees for that purpose. Caring for the trees and watching them grow will also help promote a sense of stewardship for our environment and community. We are so thrilled that Black Hills Energy is sponsoring the trees for our Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom!”
The planned half-mile walking path along the perimeter of the school’s playground and Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom will be open to the community during non-school hours.
Black Hills Energy partners with cities it serves or local volunteer groups to plant trees in communities where the company provides energy service as part of the company’s Power of Trees program. This is the sixth year for the program.
Black Hills Energy employees and their community partners plant trees in parks, on school grounds, in new public spaces and other areas. Trees lower cooling and heating costs by providing shade in summer and windbreaks in winter. Carefully positioned trees can save up to 25 percent of a household’s energy consumption for heating and cooling according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Trees help purify the air by absorbing pollutants. They also help stop erosion, improve neighborhoods by serving as sound barriers and create habitat for birds and other wildlife, even in urban settings.
As beneficial as trees are, Black Hills Energy reminds customers not to plant trees under power lines or over any buried utility infrastructure and to always call Digger’s Hotline of Nebraska before planting trees, shrubbery, gardens or otherwise disturbing the soil. Utilities spend significant sums on tree trimming to clear lines of branches. But interference can be avoided both by the type of tree that is selected as well as where the tree is planted.
Digger’s Hotline of Nebraska is the state’s utility line locating service that is provided free of charge by Black Hills Energy and other participating utilities in Nebraska. Digger’s Hotline of Nebraska phone numbers are 811, 800-331-5666 statewide in Nebraska, or 402-344-3565 in metropolitan Omaha. Anyone who excavates or disturbs the surface of the ground must first contact Digger’s Hotline two business days in advance to have all underground utilities located.
“Call before you dig,” said Shinaut. “A single call to Digger’s Hotline, as required by Nebraska state law, helps avoid the possibility of serious or fatal injury and the expensive cost of repairing natural gas service lines and other buried utility infrastructure.”